With Hope In Sight

In the Philippines, children and adults with even common disabilities, like blindness, face stigma so great that it affects every aspect of their life, including their ability to find jobs, educational opportunities or even safe, adequate housing. Some families, like single father Romy and his two Holt-sponsored children, live in isolation from their broader communities — out of sight and out of mind. But Romy is smart, savvy and motivated to build a better life for his children. Learn how $100 and just a little support from his community has given Romy and his sons greater hope for the future.

IMG_1749
Children living in Romy’s neighborhood play under a tarp-covered walk way during a rainstorm in February 2016.

Romy de Luna is a tall, slender man with a kind, soft face. It’s raining hard in Manila today, and Romy huddles under a ripped white tarp that’s draped from the cinderblock doorway of his storefront — a wide set of steal bars painted bright blue and covered by thick grated wire to keep passersby from reaching through. The 10×12-foot space behind these bars serves as both his business, and his home. On one wall a computer — the only computer in Romy’s neighborhood — sits behind a plexiglass case. It’s coin operated, so any user can pay one peso, or about 2 cents, for five minutes of Internet use. Currently, a teenage boy stands at Romy’s computer, scrolling through his Facebook feed.

Romy is one of 51 families from his neighborhood in urban Manila, Philippines enrolled in a Holt-funded program intended to help keep vulnerable children in school and help struggling families learn the skills to increase their incomes. With the help of Holt donors and child sponsorship, Romy’s children receive support to ensure they are successful in school by providing supplies, lunches and other necessities, including a community development advocate who visits with the family regularly. Romy attends monthly meetings with the other families from his neighborhood, and they discuss common hardships, share advice, discuss business success and receive lessons from Holt’s partner staff on such topics as good hygiene practices, financial planning and raising strong, healthy children. Like Romy, all 51 families in the program have school-aged children living in their homes and all run a sari-sari — or “assorted goods” — store. As a part of the program, they can access small, low-interest loans, which they use to expand their product offerings or grow their business. They repay the loans, interest free, in small, weekly payments. Then, they can borrow again. Continue reading “With Hope In Sight”